Undeterred by an acrimonious campaign by her opponents - Left, Congress and the BJP - that saw her party confronting allegations of corruption, Mamata Banerjee has once again proved that she still rules the roost as Trinamool Congress stormed back to power in West Bengal.
While most of the exit polls had already predicted a landslide victory for Mamata, it is not surprising at all that the people of Bengal chose her leadership and rejected the electoral alliance forged by two erstwhile arch-rivals – Congress and the Left – to uproot the Trinamool Congress government.
Bigger Mandate To TMC
What is even more interesting is the fact that this time the people's mandate to Mamata 'Didi' is even bigger than the previous polls in 2011 in which her party had won 184 seats. This time, contesting the polls on its own, the TMC bagged 211 of the 294 seats while the Congress-Left combine got 76 seats.
There is no doubt that the assembly polls in West Bengal had acquired an extra dimension this time, with arch-rivals - Congress and the CPI(M) - stitching a formidable alliance to put up a strong challenge to the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Rejecting the predictions made by the exit polls, a 'combined' Opposition chose to differ with them, arguing that because of fear factor that prevails in the state, known for its history of political violence, the final picture would be different.
However, nearly 82.80 percent of the total 6.55 crore electorate, which exercised their franchise across 77,247 polling stations in the elections held over six phases on seven dates from April 4 to May 5, proved Mamata's detractors miserably wrong.
Besides the Left Front-Congress tie-up, that brought together Marxist veteran and former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi on the same stage, the electoral battle here also saw corruption taking a centre-stage.
TMC's Stellar Show
While the Trinamool flanked its infrastructural projects and welfare schemes, the Opposition hit back with missiles like the Narada sting and the Saradha Chitfund scams, and the very recent flyover collapse in the Kolkata city that claimed 26 lives.
Also, of keen interest was the performance of the Bharatiya Janata Party, which had polled a surprising 17 percent in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The pollsters this time had predicted that the BJP's vote percentage would dip, with some saying it could even slump below five percent.
But contrary to the poll predictions, the saffron party won three seats.
However, its 'Netaji' card failed to woo voters.
Congress, however, did better than its Left partners by securing 44 seats. Left partners CPI-M bagged 26 seats, RSP-3, CPI-1 and Forward Bloc-2. In the hills of Kalimpong, GJM leader Sarita Rai won by 11,431 votes against sitting MLA Harka Bahadur Chettri, who had resigned from GJM and was fighting as an Independent, supported by Trinamool.
The Trinamool appeared to be decimating its Opposition in all but two of the 20 districts in the eastern state. It was only in Malda and Murshidabad districts where the Left-Congress alliance candidates scored well. Almost all the front-line leaders of the Trinamool, including its supremo Mamata Banerjee, occupied the pole position in their respective constituencies.
Who Won And Who Lost
Prominent TMC candidates who won include State Panchayat Minister Subrata Mukherjee from Ballygunge seat who defeated Congress' candidate Krishna Debnath, Education Minister Partha Chatterjee from the Behala Paschim seat against his nearest rival Kaustav Chatterjee of the CPI-M, Trinamool leader and minister Arup Roy retained his Howrah Central seat. In Jorasanko constituency of north Kolkata, where the Vivekananda flyover collapse killed 26 people on March 31, Trinamool's Smita Bakshi won by a margin of 6,290 votes defeating senior BJP leader Rahul Sinha, TMC minister Javed Ahmed Khan won from Kasba by 11,884 votes against CPI-M's Shatarup Ghosh.
Ironically, former Indian football captain and Trinamool candidate Bhaichung Bhutia was defeated from Siliguri by 14,072 votes by Siliguri Mayor and former CPI-M minister Ashok Bhattacharya, Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind leader Siddiqullah Chowdhury, who contested from Mangalkot seat on a TMC ticket, also won by 11,874 votes, TMC MP Suvendu Adhikari won by a heavy margin of 81,230 votes against his nearest Left Front rival Abdul Kabir Seikh. West Bengal Finance and Industry Minister Amit Mitra retained his Khardaha seat by defeating CPI(M)'s Asim Kumar Dasgupta by 21,200 vote, former Bengal cricket captain Laxmi Ratan Shukla won the Howrah North seat on a Trinamool ticket by defeating his nearest rival Santosh Kumar Pathak of Congress by 26,959 votes. State Tribal Affairs Minister and Trinamool candidate Sukumar Hansda retained his Jhargram seat in the Left-Wing Extremism affected area by a heavy margin of 55,228 votes.
Former BCCI president Jagmohan Dalmiya's daughter Baishali won Bally constituency in Howrah district on Trinamool ticket. She defeated her nearest rival Saumendranath Bera of the CPI-M by 15,403 votes. Trinamool leader and state Assembly Speaker Biman Banerjee won comfortably by 36,532 votes from Baruipur Paschim seat.
Footballer Dipendu Biswas, who was fielded by the TMC from South Basirhat seat, defeated BJP's only sitting MLA Samik Bhattacharya by over 24,000 votes. Trinamool leader Abdur Razzak Mollah, who had allegedly used derogatory language against actress-turned-BJP leader Roopa Ganguly during electioneering, won Bhangar seat in South 24 Parganas district.
Left-Congress Alliance - Time For Introspection
The dismal scenario for the Left-Congress alliance was reflected in its unofficial chief ministerial candidate, CPI-M state secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra falling behind by over 4,000 votes against his Trinamool Congress opponent.
In Kolkata, the Trinamool candidates had left their rivals far behind in 10 of the 11 constituencies in the city. The Trinamool virtually knocked out the opposition in the Junglemahal area - comprising forested stretches of mainly three western districts West Midnapore, Purulia and Bankura.
A ''vicious smear campaign,'' as admitted by Mamata Banerjee herself, virtually helped Trinamool Congress, which had based its campaign on the ''development and the various social welfare schemes'' launched by its government.
On the other hand, the Left-Congress alliance canvassed mainly on the corruption issue - in the aftermath of the Narada sting footage that showed a number of Trinamool leaders accepting wads of currency notes in exchange of doling out favours to a fictitious company. The Communists will have to resign themselves to spending time in the wilderness in West Bengal for the next five years. Their only solace is the success in Kerala.
With her ''phenomenal victory'', Mamata Didi has proved that there is no one stopping her in West Bengal at the moment even as she had signalled her readiness to play a role at the national level.